Neandertals’ Extinction Not Caused by Deficient Diets, Tooth Analysis Shows

Researchers from George Washington University and the Smithsonian Institution have discovered evidence to debunk the theory that Neandertals’ disappearance was caused in part by a deficient diet — one that lacked variety and was overly reliant on meat. After discovering starch granules from plant food trapped in the dental calculus on 40-thousand-year-old Neandertal teeth, the scientists believe that Neandertals ate a wide variety of plants and included cooked grains as part of a more sophisticated, diverse diet similar to early modern humans.

"Neandertals are often portrayed as very backwards or primitive," said Amanda Henry, lead researcher and a post-doctoral researcher at GW. "Now we are beginning to understand that they had some quite advanced technologies and behaviors."

Neandertal teeth from Shanidar cave. (Credit: George Washington University)

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